The long-awaited addition to the Green Bay Packers’ roster has finally arrived. It’s not the star wide receiver or offensive weapon we all have hoped for, instead, the Packers have brought in a new defensive piece in safety Johnathan Abram.
The former 27th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft was waived by the Las Vegas Raiders on Tuesday after the team failed to move him before the NFL Trade Deadline. Thanks to the Packers’ 3-6 record, the team was able to successfully claim Abram off waivers, reportedly beating out the Denver Broncos to acquire him.
It’s not a guarantee that Abram will suit up on defense starting this week against the Dallas Cowboys. However, we might see the newly signed Packer play some special teams snaps on Sunday. Abram played 210 special teams snaps over his first three years with the Raiders under the Packers’ Rich Bisaccia, who served as the Raiders’ special teams coordinator and interim head coach. Once Abram gets the scheme down, the biggest thing will be whether or not he can improve defensively.
Abram, since coming into the league, has struggled to produce on the field. In 36 games, Abram has recorded 255 tackles, three interceptions, 12 pass breakups, and eight tackles for a loss. However, according to Pro Football Focus, Abram has missed 42 tackles and allowed 11 touchdown passes with a passer rating of 118.0 in coverage. He has charted PFF grades of 38.7, 36.8, 56.7, and 49.5 since 2019.
So, how exactly will Abram fit into the Packers’ defense? For starters, Green Bay was embarrassingly thin at the safety position. Given their current waiver position and the fact that Abram is due a little over $1 million in base salary for the rest of the season, it’d be shocking to not see the Packers make a move toward acquiring a top name at the position.
Now that Abram is on the roster, it’s safe to assume defensive coordinator Joe Barry will line him up at free safety. The 26-year-old has played 603 snaps at the position over the last three seasons, a position the Packers have failed to find improvement at all season.
Darnell Savage, the Packers’ current free safety and another 2019 first-round selection has struggled throughout the first nine games of the season. Savage, whom I boldly claimed to be the key to unlocking the Packers’ defense, currently has a 47.6 PFF grade on the season and has been credited with eight missed tackles. Head coach Matt LaFleur has even called out Savage’s performance this season stating that: “As a safety, you gotta clean it up.”
That’s where the issue presents itself for the Packers. Savage seems to be playing out of his own element. It has been made obvious that he’s a better fit to line up as the nickel corner but the previous lack of depth at safety has forced Barry to keep him where he is.
“I think Darnell Savage would be an unbelievable nickel, and we’ve repped him there at times over the years but in order to do that, if you’re going to move him to the nickel corner position, you’ve got to feel comfortable with putting someone in at safety,” Barry said.
With Abram now in the fold, the Packers finally have someone who can slot into the free safety position, allowing Savage to line up as the nickel corner on defense. With cornerback Eric Stokes dealing with ankle and knee injuries, the Packers are now down a man in the slot. It’s a perfect opportunity for Savage to try and improve his season by finally getting a shot at a new position.
I still firmly believe that improved play of Savage is the key to unlocking this defense for the Packers. The change of scenery for Abram in Green Bay’s secondary might finally be the move that allows Savage’s transformation to happen.——————
Kole Noble is a lifelong Packers fan currently living in North Carolina and is a huge NFL Draft nut. You can follow him on twitter at @SlawSportsShow.